For the fifth year in a row, Chase Elliott is the man of the people as he is the winner of the 2022 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Most Popular Driver Award in the NASCAR Cup Series.
The 2020 Cup champion becomes just the fifth driver to win the award five or more times in NASCAR’s premier series, joining the likes of Richard Petty (8x), Bobby Allison (8x), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15x) and Chase’s father, Bill (16x).
It’s the seventh time Elliott has been awarded the Most Popular Driver as he won the Xfinity honor twice.
“For me, obviously, I came into a very fortunate situation,” Elliott said after a moment of recognition on the NASCAR Awards stage as a member of this year’s Championship 4. “Dad had a great connection with the fans, and beyond him, I look at the connection as really an extension of his career and my uncles and my grandfather and just kind of the path and the work ethic that they had to be able to get to where they did and to achieve the goals they did.
“And I think a lot of people really connected with them because of their approach and how they went about things and they were a little different than the rest, and I think that was very easily recognizable to the fans. And for me, look, I get it, right? I completely understand that a lot of the folks that supported them and my family over the years have migrated to support me. I’m grateful for it, grateful for the other side of the fence as well, and grateful for the new fans that I feel like I’ve made along the way, too.”
Elliott also said that he enjoyed the tongue-in-check attack ads on social media from close friend Ryan Blaney, who ramped up the competition for the annual award.
“It was a complete surprise to me,” said Elliott, who denied that he eats his chicken wings with a fork and knife in some playful back-and-forth with Blaney during Thursday’s awards program. “I had no idea that he was doing anything, but I thought it was funny. I got a pretty good laugh out of it. The second one was my favorite one. I can’t remember what it was, but I think he put out three, whichever one was in the middle. I told him I was like, ‘all right, that was pretty good.’ So it was fun, but I gave him a hard time out there about it. And I don’t know, we might try to come up with something fun to get him back with, I’m sure at some point down the road. Now I know, it’s fair game.”
After a historic season with eight wins – matching Sam Ard’s four-race consecutive victories record and owning one of the most colorful personalities in the sport – Noah Gragson won Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. It’s the first time he’s earned the honor at the Xfinity level, beating out Justin Allgaier, who won the award the last three years.
Gragson won the Truck Series Most Popular Driver award in 2018.
Hailie Deegan took home this year’s Most Popular Driver award in the Truck Series. It’s the second time in a row she’s earned the honor after becoming the first woman in the series to earn the award last season, along with being just the second woman all-time to win Most Popular Driver.